At this point, it's no secret that the White House is testing out national alerts with FEMA on Thursday.
Everyone will be receiving a text message on their phone at 2:18 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 20. Yes, you read that right.
It's very specific, so if you're a high school student who isn't allowed to have their phone in school, be sure to leave it in your locker during last period (just keeping it real). If you're at work, maybe you should leave it in the car at lunch. Everyone is going to hear a very loud, very urgent sound erupt from their phone like the weather alerts we hear on the radio or when the TV suddenly turns blue and blares a deafening fog horn sound at us.
While the benefits to this system seem obvious (we'll all be on the same page about known national threats so ideally we'll know when to dive under our desks in an attempt to hide from a bomb), I've got some questions and not all of them are rational:
1. How did the government get my phone number? Maybe it's obvious by now that nothing is actually private (I'm thinking Facebook breeches and Snowden leaks), but I never really thought I'd ever receive a text from the federal government.
2. What happens if they make a mistake? Remember when the Hawaiian government accidentally alerted its people to a missile attack that never happened? How many people thought their lives were going to end? How many people made life decisions when they believed it was about to rain missiles that they maybe regretted after?
3. Politics aside, the president is the only one allowed to decide when these kinds of alerts should go out. People make mistakes (ahem, Hawaii). Are we going to trust the spread of information about our national safety to one person? Isn't that what all three branches of government are for?
That being said, these questions are all driven by a highly anxious person's inclination to ask "what if...." And I've never complained about the weather-related alerts or missing children alerts that I automatically get on my iPhone. In fact, those are known to be helpful. Virtually everyone in the United States has a cell phone and, if you don't, you're more than likely less than a foot away from someone who does. That's a really efficient way to spread news about the status of our country's safety. But it's also just as efficient in potentially spreading panic. In one quick moment the country could go from calmly living its daily life to thousands and thousands of people scrambling to survive. And is that going to be helpful or harmful?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!